Making a game
When I worked at Puzzle Break, my team and I followed a process to produce virtual escape room games. I want to walk you through that process for how I would make one of these types of games.
Defining the game
The first thing I start with is talking with stakeholders and departments within Puzzle Break, paying close attention to sales and customer feedback. What do our customers like and what do they want? Are there themes and games that sell better than others? What do our competitors offer? Based on this research, I generate ideas for themes and stories. I find it useful to start with a strong theme, because it influences and touches everything, from puzzle content to UX writing to web design.
Occasionally, there may be an existing theme or intellectual property that the company wants to prioritize (such as a sequel or expansion). While some game designers may see this as a restriction, I see them as opportunities to experiment with mechanics and create fun content.
This is the phase when I brainstorm stories, locations, puzzles, player interactions and mechanics using Miro and Notion. I like to make lists, such as this one.
After brainstorming ideas, my team and I select the ones that sound viable, fitting our budget and timeline. It's important to note that we have to make adaptations for physical vs. virtual puzzles, making important considerations for player behavior, interactivity, communication among players, as well as the quality and visual language of the puzzles, website, etc.
Developing a prototype
Where the fun begins! I make initial prototypes of puzzles and playtest them using Miro. At the same time, I'm making illustrations, game logo, advertising poster, characters, and graphics that fit the chosen style themes. I will also work on the flow of the game, how to direct players to certain places and "train" them to play the game.
This is the stage that is most critical to game development. I playtest our puzzles and game prototypes with users. In any puzzle game environment, whether virtual or physical, it's important for players to understand what their tasks are and where to find them.
I pay close attention to player reactions, behaviors & dig deep into how they were feeling as they played the game. I want to have a clear understanding of what I can do to help the players have fun, feel engaged & complete the game.
Because initial ideas don't always render well in reality, game testing & improvement are repeated many times. I might scrap puzzles, tweak the story, develop new puzzles. This is a process that can continue even after the game is released.